DSCOVR Reaches Lagrange Point 1

NASA and NOAA announced the exciting news that the DSCOVR satellite has reached its destination about 1 Million miles from Earth. The satellite launched abord an Air Force Space X Falcon 9 rocket on February 11. The journey to it’s destination at the Langrange Point 1 took about 100 days.

Official DSCOVR Logo from NOAA
Official DSCOVR Logo from NOAA

The space weather community is anticipating vast amounts of new data from the space based observatory. The instruments on board will allow for much higher sensitivity measurements on magnetic flux and solar particles. The real-time data should help SWPC (and all space weather enthusiasts) make more accurate predictions of when and how strong solar storms will arrive and peak. If you want to geek out, here are some technical details on the instruments DSCOVR is carrying.

The satellite is in orbit around the Lagrange 1 point. This is a location in space where the gravity between the Earth and the Sun is in balance which means that the satellite needs less power to keep a stable orbit. There are actually 5 Lagrange points related to Earth. L1 and L2 are the closest to Earth. L3 is in the same position as Earth but 180 degrees opposite Earth, L4 and L5 are about 60 degrees forward and backward in Earth’s orbit.

Lagrange points Diagram
Diagram of the 5 Lagrange point between Earth and Sun

Now that DSCOVR has reached it’s destination it will start sending data back to Earth. NOAA and the SWPC are anticipating at least 30 days before the instruments are calibrated and they can share the first data and images. Once it is operational, the ACE satellite (also located at L1 and where we get most of our current space weather data) will be used for research only, and DSCOVR will become the primary data collection satellite.

Also famously on board DSCOVR is the Earth directed camera EPIC (Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera). Al Gore was such a strong proponent of getting this camera into space that for a short while the DSCOVR satellite was known as “GoreSat.” This camera will produce some of the first “Earth as a blue marble” images we’ve seen in years. Current whole Earth images have to be stitched together from images taken of Earth from much closer.

Blue Marble Earth
Whole Earth image from stitched together images taken by NASA Satelites

Happy Hunting!